Pai Commits to FCC Independence but Doesn’t Take on Trump Over Media Attacks



Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai promised Senate Democrats that he’ll act independently from the White House in regulating the media and won’t stifle free speech. But he stopped short of disavowing President Donald Trump's attacks on major news outlets.

Pai gave one-word “yes” or “no” answers in a March 17 letter to six questions that Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee Democrats asked him March 10 in their own letter. That came after they were dissatisfied with Pai’s responses to questions concerning Trump and the media at a March 8 FCC oversight hearing.

The lawmakers, led by panel Ranking Member Bill Nelson (D-Fla.), were pressing Pai to say whether he shared Trump’s view of the media and if he would resist any White House pressure to use the agency to punish specific media outlets.

In his one-word responses, Pai, in addition to pledging impartiality and independence, said he didn’t tell Trump he would take action against any particular media outlet as a condition of being named FCC chair, wouldn’t use the FCC to stifle or penalize free speech, and would tell the Senate and the public if the White House ever tries to influence his decision-making on the media.

Pai also told the senators he doesn’t believe the media is the “enemy” of the American people, as Trump said in a now-deleted Feb. 17 tweet that named The New York Times, NBC, ABC, CBS and CNN as examples of outlets that pump out fake news.

He elaborated, however, that Trump “made clear that he was referring to `fake news’” as opposed to the media in general.

FCC spokespeople didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment on whether Pai agrees with Trump that the outlets Trump singled out produce fake news.